Barbara Walker was born in Birmingham and continues to live and work in the city. Her work is informed by the social, political and cultural realities that affect her life and the lives of those around her. These directly shape a practice concerned with issues of class and power, gender, race, representation and belonging.
Her work tells contemporary stories shaped by historical circumstances. She seeks to make these stories universally understood and reflect a human perspective on the state of affairs in Britain and elsewhere.
Barbara began developing the ideas for her work in the Broken Angel project over the winter of 2020-21. During the pandemic, she was acutely conscious of her immediate family, from whom she was, like so many of us, isolated for long periods. As an artist she wished to address the ways we were responding to isolation, loss, being unable to touch and hold each other; but also how we found comfort through finding connection and love.
In the summer of 2020, she had been part of a public artistic response to the pandemic. For the South Bank Centre’s project ‘Every Day Heroes’, she made a powerful image of her daughter, an NHS nurse. This was both a loving gesture to a member of her family, and a symbolic tribute to the thousands like her in care roles.
Whilst discussing this project at Coventry Cathedral, another more art-historical conversation began alongside this personal context. How often do we identify the saints and angels of traditional iconography by what they are holding or shown alongside ? Barbara has also explored in other work the presence and absence of Black figures, including in depictions of Biblical stories. Do we imagine the saints and angels of the Bible and other texts as real, corporeal beings or as abstracted, according to our own backgrounds and identities?
"We have loved working with Barbara as she has reflected on the loss of the ‘Angel of the eternal Gospel’, as this panel was entitled. The gospel book which the original angel was holding is held towards the viewer, so it’s not possible to see what’s written on the cover.
The angel appears in the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, carrying a message of hope for the beleaguered and persecuted believers in the early days of Christianity. What message of hope might an angel bear to our Covid and post Covid world?
Barbara has led us to reflect on that, and through the personal stories drawn from her family, helped our visitors imagine where they might draw or offer hope today."
The Very Rev'd John Witcombe Dean of Coventry